RARITAN – On the losing end of an intra-party leadership battle, Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-31), Bayonne, proved there’s life after the rebellion tonight as he threw in with stymied community college teachers.
“If you want to pick on cops and firefighters, okay, I get it,” the career Bayonne firefighter told a basement crowd at Raritan Valley Community College where the teachers don’t have a contract.
“But you want to go after teachers? Are you kidding me?”
Stung by George Norcross-allied Democrats when he, state Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D-20), Union, and others tried to win leadership in the lower house more sympathetic to public sector unions, O’Donnell said he plans to take the megaphone of his office into the streets.
“Wherever labor needs me,” he told PolitickerNJ.com.
O’Donnell eschewed the microphone.
“I’m from Hudson County,” he announced to the crowd, which following the assemblyman’s speech planned to take a run at a scheduled board meeting and land what they hope will be a two percent raise.
Hoping for a different end in this case, O’Donnell drew the connection between the teachers’ struggle and the lost labor fight against Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts earlier this year to pass public sector health and pension benefits cuts with the help of compliant Democrats.
“Do we want to live in a New Jersey that gives tax breaks to millionaires and corporations and enacts so-called reforms to education? I did not vote for them. I protested them.
“What disturbs me is the administration here is unwilling to negotiate. They’re taking a tack they learned in Trenton. I feel compelled to stand with you. There’s anger being projected on teachers, firefighters and police.
“Look,” O’Donnell added, “I ran into burning buildings for a living and the most vulnerable I felt to that point was when I handed my daughter Caroline over to a teacher on her first day of school and trusted her to take care of her. Yet we have a governor who says, ‘You’re wrong. You’re overpaid. You don’t work hard. You don’t deserve it.’
“I don’t accept it,” O’Donnell cried to applause.
Engaging community college teachers and students in dialogue, O’Donnell fielded a question on what he would do if he were in charge.
“I would put the millionaire’s tax up every week and have him (Christie) veto it,” the assemblyman said.